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Cablegate: Reassuring Pakistan On the F-16 Sale

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DE RUEHIL #4008/01 2601209
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1759
INFO RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 7363
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 3427
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 1881
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHWSMRC/USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUETIAA/NSACSS FT GEORGE G MEADE MD PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 004008

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2017
TAGS: PREL MARR PGOV PK
SUBJECT: REASSURING PAKISTAN ON THE F-16 SALE

REF: A. ISLAMABAD 3658
B. ISLAMABAD 3526
C. ISLAMABAD 3168

Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, for reasons 1.4 (b)(d)

1. (C) Summary. In meetings with the Deputy Secretary last
week, President Musharraf, Prime Minister Aziz and Foreign
Secretary Khan told us the U.S. had violated the F-16

SIPDIS
agreement with Pakistan. A series of misunderstandings and
delays, including important ones on our part, has prompted
Pakistan to cease payment, at least until these issues can be
resolved. We know many in Washington are dismayed by what
they consider a juvenile reaction on Pakistan's part. But it
is hard to exaggerate the effect the failure of the F-16 sale
would have on U.S. relations with Pakistan and on our allies
in the Pakistani military. While many of the issues are
technical, they have now crossed into the political realm.
Musharraf himself appears to be increasingly concerned about
political fallout from unresolved issues with the sale. The
upcoming visit of Air Chief Tanvir will offer a chance to
address these topics. In our view, the outstanding F-16
related issues would more usefully be addressed as a package
and not as discrete (and often confusing) technical and legal
issues. We recommend the U.S. Government offer Pakistan
assurances that the United States is committed to this sale,
while reassuring the Air Chief that a number of the
restrictions are not unique to Pakistan. End summary.

2. (C) During meetings last week with the Deputy Secretary
(septels), President Musharraf, Prime Minister Aziz and
Foreign Secretary Khan all raised concern about problems
relating to the F-16 sale. Musharraf said that the Air Force
believed the U.S. had "violated" the agreement intentionally
and he urged that we resolve this problem before it
undermined bilateral relations. Musharraf was particularly
agitated about the F-16 sale during his September 16 meeting
with CODEL Boehner, as he emphasized that the "man in the
street" (i.e. voter) was aware of the previously failed F-16
sale, and now it looked as if "history was repeating itself."


3. (C) The Prime Minister characterized the U.S. as "moving
the goalposts" and confirmed what Defense Production
Additional Secretary MG Tariq Salim Malik wrote in a
September 1 letter to DSCA Director Admiral Wieringa, namely
that Pakistan would cease making payments on this case until
problems are resolved. Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood
Ahmed reiterated his concerns to Office of Defense
Representative MG Helmly on September 14. We understand the
next payment was due September 15. (We also understand that,
as a practical matter, there is a grace period of several
weeks.)

Need for Reassurance
--------------------

4. (C) The decision to pursue this $3 billion deal was
difficult for Pakistan. Air Chief Marshal Tanvir overcame
the Finance Minister's concerns about the cost of the planes
and the diversion of spending from social programs. Tanvir's
military colleagues warned him the U.S. would repeat the
Pressler Amendment sanctions experience of the l990s when the
Pakistanis paid for F-16s that were never delivered. Now,
the Air Chief, who is pro-American, is embarrassed and
weakened by the perception among his colleagues that the sale
-- for whatever reason -- will not be successful. Much of
his aggressive demeanor relates to his weakened standing.
Moreover, President Musharraf views this sale as a symbol of
a long-term U.S. commitment to Pakistan and a singular
benefit of his alliance with us.

5. (C) From our standpoint, the sale was a strategic decision
to rebuild relations with a nation critical to the war on
terror, despite Congressional and technology transfer
concerns. The notification that the MLU upgrade could not be
performed in Pakistan was made just as the press reported the
findings of the NIE and the passage of 9/11 Commission
recommendations with its Pakistan-related provisions. Our
notification to the Pakistanis of this decision a year after
it was resolved in Washington has further clouded the
picture. Much of the Pakistani mistrust is based on
incomplete understanding of our security assistance process,
and an assumption they are being singled out for specific

ISLAMABAD 00004008 002 OF 003


conditions on the F-16 sale. We can effectively address
these concerns and should do so quickly.

Problems & Recommendations
--------------------------

6. (C) In September 2006, Pakistan signed an LOA to purchase
18 new F-16 fighter aircraft; it also agreed to purchase 34
MLU kits, with the option of buying an additional 26 to
support the used Excess Defense Articles (EDA) USAF planes
being provided to them. Four EDA F-16s have been delivered;
delivery of the new planes is scheduled to begin in January
2010.

Mid-Life Upgrades
-----------------

7. (C) In August 2007 (ref C), Ambassador advised the Air
Chief Marshal of a letter signed by the Secretary in July
2006 assuring the HIRC (now HFAC) and SFRC Chairmen that the
MLUs would not be performed in Pakistan. At the time the
LOA was signed on September 30, 2006, neither post nor
Pakistan was aware of the Secretary's letter. The LOA does
not state that the MLUs can be performed in Pakistan, but
Pakistan inferred that the clause relating to U.S. training
of Pakistani technicians meant that the MLUs would occur in
Pakistan.

8. (C) The Deputy Secretary in his meetings made it clear
that the Secretary's decision was final. But we need to
provide the background of our decision and smooth the way for
helping Pakistan perform the MLUs in a third country.
Pakistan cannot carry out the upgrades elsewhere without our
help.

9. (C) Recommendation: (1) As a follow-up to their meeting,
a message from the Deputy Secretary to President Musharraf
reassuring him of our commitment to this sale and pledging to
work together to resolve outstanding concerns. This should
be delivered before the September visit to Washington of Air
Chief Marshal Tanvir. (2) We thank DSCA Director Admiral
Wieringa for his offer to meet with Tanvir and recommend he
explain our decision and offer specific DCSA assistance in
helping the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) evaluate its options and
implement its decision on where to perform the MLUs.

Basing
------

10. (C) Reftels explain in detail the problems of the
proposed security plan for basing the new F-16s in Pakistan.
Simply put, the requirement to base separately the F-16s and
foreign-origin SAR and support aircraft is impractical and
will undermine the safety and effectiveness of air
operations.

11. (C) Recommendation: Use Air Chief Marshal Tanvir's visit
to brief key Congressional interlocutors and build support
for Congressional approval of alternative basing proposals
that both protect U.S. technology and allow the PAF
reasonable air operations.

Encrypted Software
------------------

12. (S) Additional Secretary MG Malik in his letter to DSCA
cites as additional evidence of our lack of transparency the
fact that the LOA did not contain provisions explaining the
need for encrypted devices. He fears the U.S. will be able
to limit the capability of the F-16s by withholding access to
the cryptokeys.

13. (S) Recommendation: We need to explain to the Pakistanis
that the provision was in the LOA and many countries are
subject to the same restrictions. The Pakistanis do not
fully understand our requirements for sharing encrypted
devices and need to be reassured that the aircraft will still
fly without the cryptokeys. A briefing for Air Marshal
Tanvir and/or his staff could resolve this misunderstanding.

Link-16
-------

14. (S) When Pakistan signed the LOA, they were aware that

ISLAMABAD 00004008 003 OF 003


the Link-16 command and control technology had not yet been
approved for release to Pakistan but assumed it would occur
in a timely fashion. The delay in approval concerns them.

15. (S) Recommendation: The Joint Chiefs of Staff has
approved the release; the decision now rests with the
National Security Agency. We understand that the Defense
Intelligence Agency has some concerns about potential
technology transfer, and CENTCOM is working to address those
concerns. This issue needs to be resolved quickly.

Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM)
-------------------------------------

16. (S) Pakistan was previously cleared for separate elements
of DRFM; now they need approval for the whole package. USAF
supports immediate release, but the Defense Technology
Security Administration appears to have concerns. SAF/IA is
meeting this week with DTSA to review the issue.

17. (C) Recommendation: This decision process needs to be
accelerated.

18. (C) The National Disclosure Policy Committee will return
to Pakistan in December to perform a security survey to
confirm adequate Pakistani protection of U.S. classified
information. Tanvir is eager to participate in this survey
and is working to meet the security restrictions as stated in
the LOA. We should make it clear to Tanvir that we can speed
up the approval process of Link-16 and DRFM with enhanced
cooperation on this survey.

19. (C) We suggest Washington agencies address these issues
as a package with Tanvir. Of particular concern to the
Pakistanis is the completion of the mid-life upgrades in a
third country. This can be resolved by U.S. engagement that
reduces Pakistan's costs and involves Pakistani technicians
in the third-country effort.

PATTERSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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